'I had to sleep on my friend's couch at the start of final year in college'
A graduate who was homeless for the first five weeks of his final year believes 2016 could be even worse for student accommodation.
Cathal Sherlock, who finished his studies in Mathematical Science in NUI Galway last summer, slept on a friend's couch and even turned to tourist accommodation at one stage.
Cathal urged students to start their housing search well in advance of classes starting.
"The housing search in Galway is getting worse and worse this year," he said.
As he was on a J1 last summer, Cathal said he and his friends did not start looking until four to six weeks before September.
"We kept on looking, but we couldn't find anything," he said.
The situation didn't improve in time for the start of classes. "For the first two weeks of the semester, I was sleeping on a couch in a friend's house," he said.
From the third week on, Cathal and his friends then moved to rooms in a holiday cottage. While he was grateful for the accommodation, paying tourist rental rates was unsustainable.
"Those first five weeks were very hard," he said. "You could never live comfortable sleeping on someone's couch. You feel like you're invading their home. You wouldn't always be friends with their housemates - it's their house too so you don't always feel very welcome."
Cathal drove to college from his family home in Clare in first year, and has rented accommodation in Galway city since his second year. He said he supported the USI's campaign to encourage homeowners to rent out spare rooms to students, but highlighted the need for purpose-built student accommodation.